It's time to get quicker for 5km

Follow these five steps recommended by Andrew Cheong, founder of SSTAR.fitness and certified distance-running coach by the Road Running Clubs of America, and there will soon be improvements in your 5km race timings.

AT LEAST ONE SPEEDWORK A WEEK

A 5km race is a short race, compared to say a marathon. The shorter the race, the faster the pace of the competitive runners.

To improve race time, speedwork is necessary. Speedwork is running a short distance of 200m to 800m repeatedly up to 10 or more times, with a fixed, short period of rest in between sets. Adding speedwork into training improves a person's ability to run faster over a sustained period.

USE THE FITT PRINCIPLE

The human body responds and adapts to the exercises the person does, and to improve, variation is necessary.

This is done by ensuring every workout is different. Keep changing certain variables using the FITT principle - in other words, change the frequency, intensity, time and type of the workout.

Frequency would mean changing the number of runs a week from, say, twice to three times.

Intensity is about changing the speed - alternating between slower and faster runs on different days.

Time is the duration, so do a 30-minute run one day and a 45-minute run the next day.

Type refers to the type of workouts - from running on the track, to running on hills, to cross-training activities like swimming or cycling.

ADD HILLS

When training on hills, the running gait and posture will be slightly altered, and this helps train other muscles that are not as active when running on flat ground.

Adding hill running gives a balanced workout and improves speed. Beware of running fast downhill - the steeper and faster the run, the greater the chance of knee and ankle problems.

Sometimes it is best to walk down a steep hill as part of the recovery in between sets during speedwork.

DO STRENGTH TRAINING

A much-neglected part of a runner's programme is strength training. All he needs is his own body weight to do circuit training, CrossFit-style exercises, and manual resistance exercises.

For advanced training, one can do plyometrics - body weight training with explosive movements like jumps and lunges.

Strength training will not result in developing huge muscles. Instead, it keeps a runner toned and builds strength so that he can run better as well as reduces the risk of injuries.

IMPROVE GAIT AND EFFICIENCY

How can a person run the 5km faster with no increase in effort? It can be done if one becomes a more efficient runner.

The way to do that is to improve running economy through the correct stride, an efficient gait and stride cadence. Stride length and how many steps to take per minute are directly connected to the energy you use to run.

• This article was first published in shape.com.sg

• SSTAR.fitness is holding running workshops from Aug 12, For more info: www.sstar.fitness/workshops.html

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 30, 2017, with the headline 'It's time to get quicker for 5km'. Print Edition | Subscribe